Joanne: Part 6

After visiting her parents and exorcising some serious emotional demons Joanne decided to visit the mall again. There was something about being surrounded by people who wouldn’t pay attention to her normally made her feel quite comfortable. The crowds of people going about their boring days and living out their boring lives just felt normal to her. So she sat on a bench and watched people walk by.

She saw a young couple with their child walking into a toy store. She saw an old man with a walker smiling as he perused women’s underwear in a lingerie shop. She saw a young man wearing a green shirt with a university logo on it looking at video games. The young couple bought some toys. The old man made some employees extremely uncomfortable. The man in the university shirt looked at Joanne, smiled, then looked away. This made Joanne quite happy. It was nice to have someone smile at her again. So nice that it took her about a minute to realize that this subtle moment was actually an incredibly important and shocking development.

“Wait,” she said to herself, “What the hell?”

She stood up and looked at the man in the video game store. He sighed after having stared at some games for several minutes, turned, and walked through the back wall of the store. Joanne’s jaw dropped. It was another dead person. Another ghost. She’d found someone else, and he just walked through a wall in the opposite direction of her.

“Ahhh, crap,” she said to herself as she started to run into the store.

If she ran fast enough, maybe she could catch him. She could figure out if there were others. Maybe she wasn’t alone in this strange situation after all. Maybe she could do more with her life now than just sway and drool in empty downtown bus stops. So she ran through the store, straight through the back wall. She ran through shelves full of back stocked video games. She ran out the back of the mall into a parking lot. She looked around herself and couldn’t see the man anywhere. She turned around and ran back inside. She proceeded to do a futile rush through every store she could see. She saw the cute little couple buying toys for their child. She saw the creepy old man flirting with the far too young girls in the lingerie shop. But she couldn’t find the ghost in the university shirt anywhere. She slowed to a stop when she ran out the other side of the building. She put her head in her hands and let out an exasperated screech.

“Oh, come ON!” She screamed to herself.

She wasn’t going to give up this easily, though. She knew what she had to do. She was going to find this man. She was going to ask him some questions. She was going to find out why the hell people like them got stuck on earth all alone with nothing to do. So she set off to the university feeling determination for the first time since she had died.

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Joanne: Part 5

Joanne was incredibly nervous. Her heart was pounding in her chest. Never in her short afterlife had she been more unsure of a choice. She stood on an empty street and stared at a house for what felt like eons. She wanted to go inside. She wanted to speak to someone. She wanted to do so many things but she just couldn’t bring herself to move. It’s amazing how fear can still control someone when they aren’t even alive anymore. Joanne was beginning to realize that the afterlife was a lot like normal life. Just a bit more confusing and a lot more lonely.

The house that stood before her was her childhood home. Her parent’s vehicles were in the driveway and they were inside. Her mother was probably reading a novel about British royalty. Her father was undoubtedly tinkering away on a model of some sort. Joanne wanted to talk to them. She recently discovered she had the ability to speak to the living. She wanted to say something to her family. She wanted to apologize. She wanted to ask forgiveness for leaving them so soon. She wanted to have a conversation about almost anything. She missed them. She hoped they missed her. She wanted so many things in that moment but just couldn’t bring herself to move. Who knows how her parents would react to hearing her voice? They could be happy. Or it could scare them. It could warm their hearts or make them question their sanity. Joanne just stared into the windows of the house from the street and felt a pit grow in her stomach. Until, suddenly, she saw a familiar face appear in the window.

A small, furry, smiling face appeared. A black, white, and brown little dog with his young hanging out looked out into the street. Joanne smiled.

“Snickers,” she whispered to herself. She took a deep a breath. She was going to go inside, and after she spoke to her parents she would reward herself by visiting the family dog. She needed to talk to her family. She wouldn’t feel right until she did. So she went inside.

***

Joanne stood at the entrance to her family’s dining room and watched her mother reading a book at the table. She didn’t see her father yet. She wrapped her right hand around her left arm tightly and bit her lip. She didn’t know what to say. She was more aware than ever before how lost, scared, and confused she was. She took a deep breath, exhaled, and closed her eyes. She took a moment to think. She still struggled to find the words but she had to say something. So in a calm, cool voice, she spoke.

“Mom,” she said. “Mom, I miss you. I need help. I don’t know what to do. I’m lost, and kinda scared. I don’t know where else to go.”

Joanne waited for a response. None came, so she opened her eyes. Her mother was staring through her, tears pouring out of her eyes, her book neatly closed with a bookmark keeping her page. She stood up, her hands shaking. She put her hands out in front of her, feeling around. Joanne smiled, and put her hands out. As casually as she could, without thinking. She held her mother’s hands and began to tear up. Her mother looked at her hands, and she sobbed as a smile came to her face.

“Joey,” She said. “I love you sweetheart. I miss you too.”

Joanne closed her eyes and whispered.

“What should I do?” She asked. Her mother closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was trying to hold back the tears.

“I don’t know, Joey,” her mother said, “But we’re here, if you ever need us.”

“Donna?” Joanne’s father entered the room suddenly, startling Joanne.  She let go of her mother’s hands, and turned to see her father standing by the door.

“I think she’s here, Ned,” Donna said, smiling. He looked at her, confused. Without a thought, Joanne hugged her father, closed her eyes, and whispered.

“I miss you, pops,” she said. He tried to embrace her, but they slipped through each other. She turned back and saw her parents standing next to each other. Her father’s arms were around her mother’s shoulders, and they looked toward’s her, smiling. Joanne closed her eyes one last time and said what she had realized she needed to say.

“Goodbye,” Joanne said, “I love you. I’ll miss you.”

The three of them smiled, cried, and parted ways. Joanne stopped to cuddle the dog on her way out. She’d earned this one.

Running Late

I’m sitting at my kitchen table staring at my phone intensely. It sits there, doing absolutely nothing. It doesn’t vibrate. The screen doesn’t light up. Nothing. I texted that son of a bitch three minutes ago and he hasn’t said a god damn thing. The movie is starting in forty-five minutes. It takes me ten minutes to get to his house and twenty minutes to get from there to the theatre. If I leave immediately we should be able to make it there with fifteen minutes to spare. But this idiot won’t confirm whether or not he can even make it so I just have to sit here and wait. Wasting time.

So do you think you can make it?

I sent that message five minutes ago now. Two minutes have passed that I could have spent driving to pick him up. Or driving to the theatre. Should I just ditch him and go on my own? Or should I be a decent friend and wait for his confirmation? Is being a good friend more important that seeing the first two minutes of a movie? What kind of question is that, of course it is. He’s got three more minutes before I just-

Yeah, I should be good to go. You picking me up?

FINALLY. I stand up and run out to the car while I text him back.

Yup. On my way.

I slam my car door shut, throw my seatbelt on, start my car and gun it as fast as I can to his house. I might be risking a speeding ticket but fuck it. This is a movie about super heroes fighting each other. I am not missing it because my friend takes eons to decide what he’s doing with his time.

I arrive at his house a few minutes later. The movie starts in thirty minutes. We can still make it with ten minutes to spare but to my dismay he still isn’t outside of his house. The lights are still on. He had ten minutes to get ready, what the hell is he doing? I sit for what must be the longest thirty seconds of my live. I’ve been here for half of a god damned minute and he’s still not ready.

Dude, are you ready?

Yeah, almost. I just had to shower.

Are you fucking KIDDING ME? He had to shower? He had ten minutes to get ready and he just showered now. For Christ sake. I sit and wait. I twiddle my thumbs. My heart races for nearly five minutes until he finally walks outside. He gets into my car and sits down.

“Sorry I took so long,” he says. I feel a rage in my heart swell up. I feel like I’m about to explode at this asshole. Sorry you took so long? You’re not sorry. You don’t even begin to care you asshole.

“No worries,” I say, “We have plenty of time.” I pin the gas petal down and screech down the street. There’s no way I’m going to be late for this movie.

Running a little late!

If anyone is waiting for today’s post (not sure how many folks actually read here regularly) it may not be posted until tomorrow! I just finished 11 days in a row of work and have been enjoying a day off today. I’m going to write like I do everyday, but may not finish a story tonight. My apologies for the lateness!

Joanne: Part 4

Joanne smiled widely to herself as she ruminated on the success she had experienced the day before. She managed to have a very brief conversation with a young girl using sticks and stones. The conversation was cut short by the girl’s rather obnoxious mother who was more interested in buying groceries than letting her daughter commune with a wandering spirit. Despite the brief nature of the conversation, Joanne felt positively elated. She had managed to talk to someone. Her loneliness lightened a bit and she had a bit of a joyful cry. There was little time to celebrate however. Joanne was able to convince at least one child that she existed but her method of communication was rather time consuming. So she decided to try another method. If she could move objects under the right circumstances, maybe she could speak to people as well. When she had first passed on she managed to grab the attention of some people with a particularly loud scream. At least she thought she did. People seemed to look toward her once or twice before. What she really needed was some more solid evidence so she decided to do an experiment.

She stood in the middle of a busy shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon and began screaming at strangers.

“Hello!” She yelled rather loudly at a young mother with her two children. The mother seemed far too distracted by her children’s incessant begging to stop and talk to a ghost.  Joanne figured this was fair. So she decided to have a go at someone who looked less distracted.

“Excuse me,” Joanne yelled at a middle aged, balding man who was walking hurriedly toward the food court. She followed him as he shuffled along. “Excuse me? Hello! HELLO!” The man didn’t notice her. She sighed and rolled her eyes. Although, to be fair, there were two for one cheeseburgers at the food court. A fair enough reason to be distracted. This time Joanne looked for someone who wasn’t on the move. Someone who was definitely not distracted. She stopped and found an older gentleman who was sitting on a bench waiting for someone. He didn’t seem to be going anywhere. If anyone had time to listen to her, it was this guy. She stood in front of him, and leaned down so they were face to face.

“Excuse me!” Joanne yelled at the elderly man. “Can you hear me?”

The man stared through her and didn’t respond.

“Hello!” She yelled  as she waved her arms back and forth. “HELLO, CAN YOU HEAR ME!”

No response. This time she was fed up. She began yelling, and screaming, and howling a bunch of nonsense at the man. She spun around and did the same to the people behind her who happened to be walking by. She did her best impression of that strange old woman who used to ride her bus and tell obnoxiously loud stories about how she had visions of the future. When not a single person acknowledged her she let out an exasperated groan. She closed her eyes tightly and rubbed her forehead.

“What’s the god damned point?” She asked herself out lout.

“What do you mean?” She heard a young man say from behind her. She turned around, excitedly. There was a man in his twenties sitting with a woman around the same age.

“What?” The woman asked.

“You just asked me what the god damned point is,” the man said, raising his voice slightly, “You know, you didn’t have to come shopping with me if you didn’t want to.”

Joanne smiled widely.

“I didn’t say anything, you idiot,” the woman said, “You know, you’re always looking for arguments like this.”

Joanne looked back and forth and scratched her arm nervously. As the argument in front of her escalated, she sped off to another section of the mall. She may have caused a breakup, but she managed be heard. She decided to find one last person to be her test subject. A young woman working as a clerk at a clothing store. She stared her directly in the face and spoke in a fairly quiet tone.

“Hello,”Joanne said calmly. She got no response. She looked down and furrowed her brow. A moment later her eyes grew wide as she realized how this all worked. She closed here eyes and tried again.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hm?” The clerk said. Joanne opened her eyes and saw the very confused looking clerk looking around for the source of the greeting. So there it was. Eyes closed, calm voice. Joanne knew exactly where she needed to go. She had some catching up to do.